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This theme of Appearance Vs. Reality is used throughout the play to mislead and confuse so things may not always be what they seem. Shakespeare uses deception to enhance the unfolding drama and involve his audience more fully in the play the audience are party to deceptions which the characters themselves are unaware of. Prejudice was common and the word Jew applied to hardhearted unscrupulous moneylenders. An Elizabethan audience would have been happy to see a Jew, Spaniard or a Moor deceived and Shakespeare clearly tried to give his audience what it wanted. In contrast, many, particularly ladies, would have admired the strong and witty Portia and even though she appears arrogant and racist this would have been accepted in Elizabethan England.
Any deception carried out by Portia would therefore be admired and applauded by Shakespeare's audience and it is not surprising therefore she carries out that many deceptions. A major theme running though the play is that of Christians disliking Jews and Jews returning the feelings. Towards the start of the play Shakespeare introduces deception when Antonio (a Christian) wants a bond from Shylock (a Jew). Shylock agrees to the bond under the condition that Shylock gets a pound of Antonio's flesh for each pound he cannot return. This bond seems to come out of friendship from Shylock and he describes, I would be friends with you, and have your love The audience, however, knows at this point that Shylock is deceiving Antonio; although Shylock pretends to like Antonio Antonio is a good man and wants to be friends he has already expressed to the audience his hatred for Antonio. Shylock also describes the bond as this merry bond.
A merry bond is a bond which is not serious, a joke, and if the terms of the bond were broken you would not expect to see Shylock wanting to take up the strict terms of it. Again, this is another deception, as later in the play Shylock wants full revenge by taking his pounds of flesh from Antonio. These are two deceptions played on Antonio by Shylock. An Elizabethan audience might expect nothing less of a Jew. By hiding his hatred for Antonio and making light of the pound of flesh, Shylock succeeds in his deception. The next deception is the elopement of Jessica and Lorenzo; a deception in this instant against Shylock.
Lorenzo doesnt care about the consequences to Shylock as Shylock is a Jew and Lorenzo doesnt respect him because of this. He describes Shylock as A faithless Jew. Jessica doesnt respect her father either and dislikes being a Jew. Jessica tells the audience how she is ashamed to be my fathers child and makes the audience feel sorry for her by describing her unhappy home life our house is hell Jessica is to be disguised as a torchbearer. She also steals some of her fathers valuable possessions and money knowing this will cause him great pain on top of her running away. We hear about Shylock's reaction to the elopement in Act 2 Scene 8 when Salary and Solanio are making fun of him.
My daughter! Oh my ducats! Fled with a Christian, Oh my Christian ducats stolen by my daughter. Lorenzo and his friends deceived Shylock out of spite, as they disliked Shylock as a Jew, but also because they know that Shylock would not approve of the marriage and Jessica becoming a Christian. The elopement deception is a major issue because it might have contribute to Shylock's anger towards and make him want token his bond even more.
Jessica also dressed up as a pageboy to disguise her and this is quite similar to Portia who later disguise herself as a lawyer to help Antonio. Portia deceives all of the men that come to choose a casket. To their faces she appears to like them but when they have gone she mocks them and says how she disliked them. She especially deceives the Prince of Morocco. To his face, Portia says she has no problems with his colour and even admires his looks Yourself, renowned prince then stood as fair as any comer but once he chooses the wrong casket and leaves she says Let all of his complexion chose me so. This is a racist comment; she wants all people of his race to choose the wrong casket.
In the original group of suitors mentioned at the start of the play was, amongst others, a German whom Portia stereotyped. When he is worst he is little better than a beast. In Shakespeare's time the suitors would have been recognized as national stereotypes. Although not clearly specified in the play, we are under the impression that Portia again is pleasant to the suitors faces but mocks them behind their backs a cruel and deliberate deception. Finally Portia deceives the Prince of Arragon too.
In his presence she describes him as a noble prince but again this is only a deception as in his absence she comments on all the men who have visited as being deliberate fools. Bassanio deceives Portia into thinking he is rich. This is quite an important deception as it is linked directly to the main deception of the loan from Shylock. Bassanio needs money so he can borrow a ship and sail to Portia to ask if she will marry him. He also needs money to buy expensive gifts, again to deceive Portia. Bassanio brings Gifts of rich value and, although he is in debt, arrives as Portia's suitor as if a rich man.
After successfully saving Antonio from Shylock, Portia (still disguised) requests Bassanio's ring that she has given him as a token of loyalty, And for your love Ill take this ring from you. When Bassanio claims he cannot part with the ring, Portia mocks him, That excuse serves many men to save their gifts. After Portia has successfully taken the ring from Bassanio, Nerissa decides to try the same deception and gain her husbands ring. Ill see if I can get my husbands ring. After this deception is successful, the women then try to take the deceit one step further.
Portia denies her husband his marital rights until he produces the ring, I will neer come in your bed until I see the ring. When she learns that Bassanio gave the lawyer the ring she says, Ill not deny him anything I have, No, not my body nor my husbands bed. This could be part of the theme appearance vs. reality too. Portia and Nerissa dress up as a Doctor and Clerk to try and save Antonio from Shylock's bond. Thus they deceive the court in an attempt to save Antonio.
Portia asks that Shylock be merciful, The quality of mercy is not strained. When, Shylock refuses, Portia increases both her deception and the tension by firstly giving judgment in Shylock's favour, The court awards it and the law doth give it. But, at the last minute saves Antonio by revealing a flaw in the bond. Tarry a little, this bond doth give these here no jot of blood.
Antonio is saved at the last minute but it seems that Portia knew this all along and therefore she is deceiving Antonio just as much as Shylock and whipping up emotions in both characters. Therefore, this kind deception, has a twist in its tail Portia drags out the court scene and does not put Antonio out of his misery for some time. The caskets are an important theme in the Merchant of Venice and even they hold deceit for characters in the play. Portia's father left the caskets before he died to supposedly ensure that Portia found the perfect match and a husband her father would approve of.
In this sense, the caskets may be described as a kind deception, although it may have been kinder to Portia to allow her to choose her own husband. Portia is very wealthy and the caskets set out to try and deceive those who might just be marrying her for her money or appearance. The gold casket claims, Who choose me shall gain what many men desire. In this case, it is not so much the words that deceive but the colour of the casket. If you just go by outward appearances and choose the best out of gold, silver and bronze then gold would be the one chosen, thus showing the person who chose the gold box judged only on outward appearances. The famous words within the gold box read All that glistens is not gold, justifying why the person will not win Portia's hand.
The Prince of Morocco should have chosen Portia because he loved her, for her personality and not because others desired her or for her appearance. The silver box similarly claims, Who choose me, shall get as much as he deserves. Inside is a portrait of an idiot; showing what Arragon deserved for choosing the silver box. Did I deserve no more than a fools head? is his cry when he found out he was not to win Portia's hand. The final, base lead box stands in contrast to the richness and splendour of the other two and is chosen by Bassanio, who fears the other two caskets fine appearances might be misleading.
He considers false appearances in law, religion, war and beauty and decides the lead box is his best hope. In this play, Christians like Antonio is pictured as kind and generous by his friends, Salerno and Salanio, A kinder man treads not this Earth but from the way he treated Shylock contradicted to this line. You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog, and spit on my Jewish garbed ine So does Antonio appears kind but is actually a racist and look down on people beneath or vice versa? Maybe both.
This is much of the same with Portia, she appears generous and wise but is prejudiced towards the Prince of Morocco. This behaviour of the Christians may seem right to Elizabethan audience but to us it is cruel and not right. Shakespeare did not intent to make them look bad. In conclusion, appearance vs. reality is an important theme throughout the play because each character becomes linked to another through the roll of deception and thus the plot is able to unfold. For example, the deception of the caskets links Portia, as Bassanio's wife, to Antonio his friend and thus the court deception.
Shylock seeks revenge through Antonio because of his daughter and Lorenzo's deceit when they elope. Deception and intrigue were very common in Shakespeare's times. He writes about deception as it is what he saw around him and also because it holds his audiences attention especially when the audience know a character in the play is deceiving another but the other character is not aware of this. Therefore, through deception Shakespeare brings his audience into the play itself and maintains their interest. They would have greatly appreciated being involved in the deceits and lies and would have been familiar, from life around them, with the concept of deception and enjoyed it.
The line All that glistens is not gold has survived over 400 years and is used today to warn that outward appearances may mask what is on the inside and this is the message of Shakespeare's play. Whether Shakespeare was using deception to put across such a message or just to entertain his audience or both, the use of deception gives the play an intriguing plot, with heroes and villains and a theme which his Elizabethan audience could easily relate to.
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Research essay sample on Theme Of Appearance Vs Reality In Merchant Venice
Merchant of Venice Appearance vs RealityGet Your
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In the play The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare, clearly shows that many time people appear to be something that really are not. This can be dangerous because you never know who you can trust. Characters are two faced, the one they show, what they appear to be, and the one they hide, what they really are. To begin with, Shakespeare shows how people pretend to be someone they aren’t just for convenience. This is shown in Jessica’s attitudes, she appears to be a loving daughter that take care of her father and would never wrong him.
She assures to take care of the house while Shylock goes to the dinner party he had been invited to, but when he is gone he take out her “mask” and shows her real face, a selfish face and taking advantage of the situation, she steal her father jewelry and ducats as her go with Lorenzo. This shows how Jessica can have an extreme change, betraying her father, the ne that raised her alone. Furthermore, appearance and reality are also shown in Antonio’s words referring to Shylock. “He is a villain with a smiling cheek” its hiding a bad person a “villain”.
In this context Antonio uses these words because Shylock appears to be a good person helping them with the bond and citing scriptures, but he says that even the devil can cite the scriptures. Another character that plays both roles to the extreme is Portia. The fair Portia, who appears to be perfect and have no defects, the one that is claimed form all over the world’s in fact not as fair as we have thought, as its shown in this words “ I would rather he to shrive me tan wife me” here we can see how Portia is in fact racist and judgmental.
Furthermore, he theme isn’t only applied to characters but to objects, as the caskets. As were the gold casket says “who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire”. Morocco chooses this casket focusing on the words “(…. ) what many men desires” he thinks about Portia as what all men desire, but when he opens the casket he finds a scroll with the words “all that glitters isn’t gold” meaning that appearances can decive you, and also meaning that no everything that is beautiful in the exterior is beautiful in de interior, being Morocco as superficial in a way.
This shows how objects can also appear to be something they aren’t. Then the silver casket says “who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves”. And the prince of Aragoth with a more arrogant thought discards the gold casket saying that he isn’t just one more of the men that desire her, that in fact he deserves her. Here we can see that his choice appear to be more intelligent than Morocco’s buy in fact it isn’t, it is an arrogant idea, that he is better than everyone else and that’s why he deserves her. Lastly, the most important, the lead casket, which appears to be non-valuable, so everyone discards it.
This casket shows how something that appears not valuable, or appears to be not worth can be so important. And what Portia’s father wanted was someone that values her fortune and above all someone that would give all for her, that’s why the casket said “who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath” To conclude, Shakespeare shows in his play how appearances can deceive us in very different ways and it’s always better to look beyond the appearances and give us into the content of the character of a person. He also shows this in a very literal way with objects.
Author: Brandon Johnson
Merchant of Venice Appearance vs Reality
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